MHC Joins Focus the Nation Jan. 31

Posted: January 7, 2008

Updated: February 1, 2008 - View the Photo Gallery

The Mount Holyoke campus community will kick off the nationwide Focus the Nation teach-in on climate change with a full day of activities on January 31.

Student activists Molly Beurmann '09 and Elizabeth Cooper '10 hope to "educate and energize" the campus when Mount Holyoke takes part in the nationwide Focus the Nation campaign against global warming on January 31. More than 1,000 colleges, civic and religious organizations, businesses, and other institutions are expected to participate in the country's largest-ever teach-in, which will be dedicated to creating a dialogue on climate change solutions.

Buermann and Cooper are among the students, faculty, and staff who have worked since early fall to organize MHC's own daylong Focus the Nation program, which will begin with a rallying kick-off event the evening of January 30. The main day program will feature three panel symposiums, exhibits in several common areas of the campus, and numerous opportunities for the campus community to discuss the day's lessons. The latter includes a classroom focus; all faculty are being asked to devote a portion of their class time on January 30 or 31 to discuss climate change with students from his/her disciplinary perspective.

In addition, the program will serve as the launch of a Focus the Campus initiative that will continue through the spring semester.

"We are aiming to make Focus the Nation a watershed event on our campus, one that catapults both our understanding of this global challenge and our stewardship in confronting it to new levels," said MHC President Joanne V. Creighton.

"We'd like to get the campus to pay attention to what individuals can do. Most people know about climate change, but they don't do anything about it," said Buermann. "We hope to show through these panel discussions that you can be a philosophy major and still make a contribution. And we want to keep that going through Focus the Campus."

"We want to get people out of the mindset that this is a problem that will be solved by scientists," added Cooper.

Led by Sandra Postel, the Leslie and Sarah Miller Director of the Center for the Environment, organizers began meeting weekly in the early fall to plan MHC's part in the national teach-in. As head of the College's Environmental Action Coalition (EAC), Buermann got involved immediately.

"I grew up in Vermont, where people have been talking about the environment for a long time, so I had a history of discussing these things with my family," she said, noting she "realized climate issues would be my focus when I got to Mount Holyoke." Now a biology major specializing in plant genetics, Buermann believes her studies could lead her to a future exploration of the use of plants for alternative fuel sources.

Cooper--who discovered her passion for protecting the environment while taking a political ecology class with professor Giovanna DiChiro--focuses her interest in a very different direction.

"Public health care is a human right, but those living in poverty are exposed to the most pollution and toxins," she says. "The impact [of global change] on the community is the most compelling environmental issue for me."

The three panel discussions will focus on civic engagement and the daily tools and lifestyle changes that can prevent further climate change, in addition to providing cross-disciplinary perspectives on the topic, according to Cooper.

"The overall goal of Focus the Nation is to inform and engage our community on this critical issue. We want MHC to not just jump on the bandwagon, but to lead on this issue," said Postel.

The Focus the Campus initiative will carry MHC's commitment forward by turning awareness into action, according to Nancy Apple, the College's director of environmental health and safety.

"Focus the Campus is asking that each office, department, and organization make a commitment to reducing the footprint of their activities by establishing at least three goals for spring semester and beyond," she said.


MHC Focus the Nation Program

Wednesday, January 30

7-10 pm
Focus the Nation Kickoff - "Sustaining Community: It Starts Here"

An evening of music with Erica Wheeler, storytelling by Marge Bruchac, and a community viewing of the nationwide Focus the Nation webcast, "The 2% Solution."

Thursday, January 31

Panel discussion - "Political, Personal, Powerful: Activism for Climate Change"

Students and alumnae discuss their activist activities related to climate change. This session will include reports from students who attended the PowerShift gathering in the Washington, DC, area in November.

4 pm
Panel discussion - "Focus the Campus: Environmental Stewardship at MHC"

Staff examines MHC's climate protection goals and other elements of on-campus environmental stewardship. This discussion will launch the spring semester Focus the Campus initiative designed to reinvigorate campus efforts towards energy conservation, recycling, etc.

7-9 pm
Evening panel - "No Degrees of Separation: MHC Speaks Out on Global Warming"

A panel consisting of eight faculty, one staff member and one alumna will present a one-hour kaleidoscope of multidisciplinary views and insights on climate change. President Joanne V. Creighton will also speak during this event. Expected participants: Jeremy King (history); Jill Bubier (environmental studies); Doug Amy (politics); Corinne Demas (English); Jens Christiansen (economics); Joe Smith (art); Persa Batra (geology); Angie Dickens (chemistry); Mary Jo Maydew (vice president for finance and administration); and alumna Lisa Brunie, Canon Corporation.

The second hour will consist of audience breakout sessions to discuss the presentation and formulate recommendations for campus action.

All events will be held in Chapin Auditorium, Mary Woolley Hall.

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